At the Peace in Medicine Healing Center in Sebastopol, the wares on display include dried marijuana – featuring brands like Kryptonite, Voodoo Daddy and Train Wreck – and medicinal cookies arrayed below a sign saying, “Keep Out of Reach of Your Mother.”
Several Bay Area doctors who recommend medical marijuana for their patients said in recent interviews that their client base had expanded to include teenagers with psychiatric conditions including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
“It’s not everybody’s medicine, but for some, it can make a profound difference,” said Valerie Corral, a founder of the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana, a patients’ collective in Santa Cruz that has two dozen minors as registered clients.
Because California does not require doctors to report cases involving medical marijuana, no reliable data exist for how many minors have been authorized to receive it. But Dr. Jean Talleyrand, who founded MediCann, a network in Oakland of 20 clinics who authorize patients to use the drug, said his staff members had treated as many as 50 patients ages 14 to 18 who had A.D.H.D. Bay Area doctors have been at the forefront of the fierce debate about medical marijuana, winning tolerance for people with grave illnesses like terminal cancer and AIDS. Yet as these doctors use their discretion more liberally, such support – even here – may be harder to muster, especially when it comes to using marijuana to treat adolescents with A.D.H.D.
“How many ways can one say ‘one of the worst ideas of all time?’ ” asked Stephen Hinshaw, the chairman of the psychology department at the University of California, Berkeley. He cited studies showing that tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the active ingredient in cannabis, disrupts attention, memory and concentration – functions already compromised in people with the attention-deficit disorder.
Advocates are just as adamant, though they are in a distinct minority. “It’s safer than aspirin,” Dr. Talleyrand said. He and other marijuana advocates maintain that it is also safer than methylphenidate (Ritalin), the stimulant prescription drug most often used to treat A.D.H.D. That drug has documented potential side effects including insomnia, depression, facial tics and stunted growth.
In 1996, voters approved a ballot proposition making California the first state to legalize medical marijuana. Twelve other states have followed suit – allowing cannabis for several specified, serious conditions including cancer and AIDS – but only California adds the grab-bag phrase “for any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.”
This has left those doctors willing to “recommend” cannabis – in the Alice-in-Wonderland world of medical marijuana, they cannot legally prescribe it – with leeway that some use to a daring degree. “You can get it for a backache,” said Keith Stroup, the founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Nonetheless, expanding its use among young people is controversial even among doctors who authorize medical marijuana. cannabis kaufen online
Gene Schoenfeld, a doctor in Sausalito, said, “I wouldn’t do it for anyone under 21, unless they have a life-threatening problem such as cancer or AIDS.”
Dr. Schoenfeld added, “It’s detrimental to adolescents who chronically use it, and if it’s being used medically, that implies chronic use.”
Dr. Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said she was particularly worried about the risk of dependency – a risk she said was already high among adolescents and people with attention-deficit disorder.
Counterintuitive as it may seem, however, patients and doctors have been reporting that marijuana helps alleviate some of the symptoms, particularly the anxiety and anger that so often accompany A.D.H.D. The disorder has been diagnosed in more than 4.5 million children in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Researchers have linked the use of marijuana by adolescents to increased risk of psychosis and schizophrenia for people genetically predisposed to those illnesses. However, one 2008 report in the journal Schizophrenia Research suggested that the incidence of mental health problems among adolescents with the disorder who used marijuana was lower than that of nonusers.
Marijuana is “a godsend” for some people with A.D.H.D., said Dr. Edward M. Hallowell, a psychiatrist who has written several books on the disorder. However, Dr. Hallowell said he discourages his patients from using it, both because it is – mostly – illegal, and because his observations show that “it can lead to a syndrome in which all the person wants to do all day is get stoned, and they do nothing else.”